5 of the best Ryder Cup matches ever

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Combine emotions, egos, national pride and patriotism and what do you get?

Peter Masters selects the five greatest Ryder Cup encounters in history.

1 Tony Jacklin v Jack Nicklaus

When: Sunday, Royal Birkdale, 1969

Format: Final singles

It’s the famous concession when, to the chagrin of some of his teammates, big Jack offered Jacklin a half that tied the matches at 16-16. It was a gesture that highlights golf as a game played by honourable gentlemen.

Two other factors make Nicklaus’ actions even more courteous. The matches had not been played in the best of spirits. GB&I captain Eric Brown had told his team not to look for American balls in the rough.

Second, Nicklaus had earlier lost 4&3 to Jacklin and could easily have wanted revenge. Jacklin had holed a monster putt for eagle on 17 and the competitive juices were flowing.

“I felt the US was going to retain the Cup either way. I didn’t think it was in the spirit
of the game to make Jacklin have a chance to miss a two-footer to lose the match in front of his fans.”

Result: All square
End result: Europe 16-16 USA
(USA retained the Cup)

2 Ballesteros & Olazabal v Azinger &  Beck

When: Friday, Kiawah Island, 1991

Format: Morning foursomes

This encounter will be remembered as the most intense and bitter of any at a Ryder Cup. First, the Americans felt that Ballesteros was always clearing his throat on Beck’s backswing.

Then Olazabal and Seve accused Azinger and Beck of switching the compression of their golf ball. By the time they called foul play, however, it was too late under the rules to do anything about it. But there had been previous.

In the singles at The Belfry two years before, Azinger tried to change his ball in play because he said it was damaged.

Seve disagreed and the referee backed Ballesteros’ opinion. To make matters worse, the Spaniard questioned the drop his opponent took on the last that enabled him to secure a 1-up win.

Result: Europe 2&1. End result: USA 14½-13½ Europe

3 Phil Mickelson  v Justin Rose

When: Sunday, Medinah, 2012.

Format: Fourth singles

Exceptional golf, a cauldron atmosphere and a grandstand finish, this match was a key part of the Miracle at Medinah, where Europe prised victory from the jaws of defeat.

It was only the fourth match out, but it was colossal as the red started to turn to blue on the scoreboard. Rose holed a 10-footer at 16 to avoid going 2-down.

Mickelson then almost holed a chip from the back of 17 before Rose settled over a sliding, 30-footer he needed to make to stay level. Hole it he did, drawing a thumbs up from his opponent.

The moment encapsulated the purest form of sport where you play hard, play to win, but remain gracious in defeat.

Result: Europe 1-up.  End result:  USA 13½-14½ Europe

4 Curtis Strange v Nick Faldo

When: Sunday, Oak Hill, 1995

Format: Eighth singles

In Seve’s last Ryder Cup as a player, the Americans led 9-7 after the team format. Having never lost the singles at home, they were odds-on favourites.

Ballesteros led the final day assault, making outrageous pars from all corners of the course to keep his tussle with Tom Lehman alive long enough for Europe to get a foothold in the match.

In the end, it came down to Nick Faldo, who trailed one down with two to play against Curtis Strange. A gutsy four-footer for par won him the 17th. At the closing hole, Faldo drove into the rough and had to lay up.

From 94 yards, he fired his wedge to five feet, holed the crucial par putt, then gave Seve a hug with both men in tears. “It was the best scrambling par I ever made,” says Faldo.

Result: Europe 1-up. End result: USA 13½-14½ Europe

5 Dai Rees v Ed Furgol

When: Saturday, Lindrick, 1957

Format: Fifth singles

Grave concern surrounded the future of the Ryder Cup at this time with many feeling that the matches were too one-sided. At Lindrick, the home side won just one of the four foursomes over 36 holes.

Trailing 3-1 going into the Saturday singles, something extraordinary happened. Eric Brown defeated Tommy Bolt and Peter Mills, playing his first Ryder Cup, beat the US skipper Jack Burke. GB&I then played like men possessed.

Bernhard Hunt won 6&5 and Christy O’Connor Snr 7&6, a scoreline that was matched by Rees as his match with Furgol ended on the 12th green.

The Welshman captained GB&I five times, but this was his one moment in the sun.

Result: GB&I 7&6. End result: GB 7½-4½ USA